At Cannes, Scorsese and DiCaprio turn the spotlight on the Osage Nation
CANNES, France — It was well into the making of “Killers of the Flower Moon” that Martin Scorsese realized that it was not a detective story.
Scorsese, actor Leonardo DiCaprio and screenwriter Eric Roth had several options for adapting David Grann’s sprawling nonfiction story, Killers of the Flower Moon: The Osage Murders and the Birth of the FBI. The film, which Scorsese and company presented at Cannes on Saturday. However, the Film Festival was not as it was originally planned.
The film, released in theaters in October, depicts a series of murders in the Osage Nation of Oklahoma in the 1920s. At the time, the Osage were extremely wealthy from the oil on their land, and many white barons and thugs alike sought to control and steal their money. Dozens of Osage Indians were killed before the fledgling FBI began to investigate.
DiCaprio was originally cast as FBI agent Tom White. But after thinking about the project, Scorsese decided to shoot it.
“I said, ‘I think the audience is ahead of us,'” Scorsese told reporters Sunday in Cannes. “They know this is not an idiot. This is someone who didn’t.”
According to the filmmakers, the shift was largely caused by working with the Osage. Osage Chief Standing Bear, who consulted on the film, praised the filmmakers for putting Mollie (Lily Gladstone) and her husband Ernest Burkhart (DiCaprio) at the heart of the story, the tragic romance at the heart of Scorsese’s insidious epic of American ethnic exploitation. stands
“At the beginning I asked Mr. Scorsese, ‘How are you going to approach the story? He said I was going to tell a story about trust, the trust between Mollie and Ernest, the trust between the outside world and the Osage, and the betrayal of those trusts,” Chief Standing Bear said. “My people suffered a lot and the effects are with us to this day. But I can say on behalf of the Osage that Marty Scorsese and his team have restored trust, and we know that trust will not be betrayed.”
“Killers of the Flower Moon,” the most anticipated film to debut at this year’s Cannes, was instead about Ernest, whom Scorsese called “the least written character.”
DiCaprio, who relinquished the role of White to Jesse Plemons, said “Killers of the Flower Moon” echoes other dark chapters in American history that have been widely discussed recently.
“This story, like the Tulsa massacre, was something that people started learning about and started to understand that it was part of the culture, part of our history,” DiCaprio said. “After the script, almost from an anthropological point of view — Marty was there every day — we talked to the community, tried to hear the real stories and tried to include the truth.”
“Killers of the Flower Moon” opened Saturday to largely rave reviews and thunderous applause, nearly 50 years after Scorsese made a splash at Cannes as a young filmmaker. His “Taxi Driver” won the Palme d’Or in 1976.
Most praised performances include Gladstone, an actor of Blackfeet and Nimíipuu heritage.
“These artistic souls on this stage cared about telling a story that pierces the veil of what society tells us we should care about and don’t,” said Gladstone, who singled out Scorsese. “Who else challenges people to question their own complicity in white supremacy on a platform like this man?”
“We’re talking about the Osage community in the 1920s. We’re talking about Black Wall Street and Tulsa. We talk about a lot of things in our film,” he continued. “Why the hell doesn’t the world know about these things? Our communities have always known. How we understand our place in the world is so central to everything.”
In the film, Robert De Niro plays a wealthy baron who is particularly adept at robbing the Osage. Speaking on Sunday, De Niro was still mulling over his character’s motivations.
“There’s a sense of entitlement,” De Niro said. “This is the banality of evil. This is what we need to watch out for. Of course we see it today. We all know who I’m going to talk about, but I won’t tell you his name. Because that guy is stupid. Imagine if you were smart?”
A minute later, De Niro continued, “I mean, look at Trump,” referring to former President Donald Trump.
“Killers of the Flower Moon” is one of Scorsese’s biggest undertakings, with a running time of well over three hours and a budget of $200 million from Apple. When asked where he gets the courage to take such risks, the 80-year-old director did not hesitate.
“What else could I do at this age if I were to take a risk?” Scorsese said. “No, let’s do something comfortable.” Are you joking?”
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